Hurricane Supplication Day in the Virgin IslandsJuly 21, 2013
For tropical islanders, the potential for hurricanes is a risk of living in paradise. Although U.S. meteorologists cite June 1 as the start of hurricane season, hurricanes in the Virgin Islands are most likely to occur in August and September. Reducing this storm potential is at the heart of Hurricane Supplication Day, a tradition uniquely observed by residents of the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Every year on the fourth Monday of July, islands dwellers on St. Croix, St. Thomas, and St. John pray for protection from hurricanes. Special church services are held to call upon divine protection from storms that can wreak havoc on these and other Caribbean islands. The custom is said to originate in the Rogation Days ceremonies of 5th century England. Rogations (meaning “asking” or “supplications”) were sometimes offered annually, and sometimes in response to the aftermath of a particularly devastating natural disaster.
The hurricane that caused the most widespread damage in the area was Hugo, in 1989. The U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico jointly suffered about $1 billion of damage in that storm, and the deaths of five people. In the late 1990s local disaster relief was required for Hurricanes Bertha, Georges and Lenny.
Islanders observe the end of the hurricane season on Hurricane Thanksgiving Day, on the third Monday of October. Church services lead congregants in prayers of gratitude for being spared the destruction of a major storm.